Wednesday, 18 July 2007

The Methodology of Hizb-ut-Tahrir and Violent Action

Taken from Noman Hanif's article "Ex Islamist Inc: Fabricating a Link between Hizb ut Tahrir and Terrorism"

The Islamic world is a melting pot of various movements committed to Islamic revival. However, the Islamic movement is not a unitary block. The commonality of its final goal masks the trenches which exist between the movements related to the understanding of the political reality and the methodology required to bring about the final solution. The politics of Islamism is fundamentally contested. These contestations are evident not only in the literature base of these movements but also in the practical application of their strategies. In order to correctly evaluate any movement there has to be an objective reading of its ideational base and an empirical appreciation of its methodology and strategy in practice. At the same time a cautionary principle must be adopted in that the study of movements is not a scientific one. One cannot confine the movements to the realm of a laboratory and hypothesize. In the real world the Islamic movement is a live cosmopolitan shopping mall. People tend to move in, out and around different movements, picking up a host of ideas on the shopping trip. For instance in the public circles and Friday sermons organised by the various movements, the audience will consist of a plethora of interested parties affiliated to different persuasions and organisations. The attendance of a person from one school of thought in the activity of another does not in any way imply a wholesale conversion. Such an argument would indeed be nonsensical and a twisted distortion of everyday human behaviour in the life of all societies. Yet it is with this twisted logic that the war on terrorism is evolving and more succinctly the logic of Zeyno Baran, Ed Hussein and Shiraz Maher against Hizb-ut-Tahrir.

The basis of this deviant logic has nothing to do with international terrorism. Baran’s agenda is a fresh application for the ‘politics of fear’. This is a Raeganite ‘war of ideas’ paradigm which was applied successfully against Communism and now blasts against political Islam. The Hudson Institute, The Nixon Center and other US prominent think tanks were indeed established on the very premise of fighting a war of ideas against Communism and the Soviet Union. In this paradigm, radical Islam is substituted for Communism as the primary “evil”. Baran’s agenda for this war against HT under this ill defined model becomes suspiciously apparent not only in the Nixon Center’s and the Heritage Foundation’s superficial and deliberate mis-reading of the HT ideology and politics but in the collusion with anti-HT, non-democratic but energy resourceful states and governments in Central Asia.

Ed Hussein and Shiraz Maher however are not in the same league as Baran. Whereas Baran is an engine for US policy, Husein and Maher are simple pawns that seem to have prostituted themselves in the Western led battle against political Islam. In my article “The Future of HT in Britain”, I situated Ed Huseins book ‘The Islamist’ and his heavy promotion as an insider as part of a British strategy towards bringing HT into mainstream politics domestically and utlitising it for foreign policy goals externally. In my follow up article “David Cameron and Labour’s Strategy towards HT”, I have identified four areas of this strategy which is not to proscribe but to maintain the threat of proscription in order to moderate and engineer HT’s British branch such that it can be utilised for policy purposes. One of the elements of this strategy is to maintain the possibility of a fabricated link between terrorism and HT through employing ex HT members such as Ed Hussein, Shiraz Maher and in smaller measure ex-Muhajiroun member Hassan Butt. The heavy engagement by the UK Home Office, security services and the media of these ex-members has not gone unnoticed. The comments on the various websites where their articles have been published indicate a trust deficit by Muslims and non-Muslims alike regarding the agenda’s of these characters largely brought about by the contradictions, inconsistencies and inaccuracies in their accounts and testimonies. Moreover as I will demonstrate the conceptual positions of both Husein and Maher in framing a false case of terrorism against HT are untenable and as argued above seem to be motivated by factors other than a desire to address the real causes of terrorism.

Before I embark upon a refutation of Hussain and Maher’s edifice which attempts to link HT with terrorism, it is essential to understand exactly what HT ideology is towards violent action. HT’s theoretical premise for its methodology is openly detailed in its books. It claims to strictly follow the stages of the Prophet Mohammed in his political journey from the Arabian city of Mecca to the establishment of the Islamic state in the Arabian city of Medina. This journey according to all the books of HT was a non-violent one involving the building of a popular base through dawa(interaction) and then the installment of an Islamic government built on the support of the popular base and the intervention of the people of influence and power. Because this methodology has been considered a derivative from the Islamic sources through a process of ijtihad (jurisitic exertion), it is considered a divine obligation and deviation from it haram(prohibited). HT’s strict adherence to this methodology is a widely understood reality. Moreover, HT has been the thorn of jihadists in condemning their use of violence as a methodological tool. In their exchange with the jihadists’ which can be gauged from various websites, HT members argument rests on the argument that the disciples of Mohammed who were subjected to varying degrees of torture in Mecca wanted to respond with violence but were strictly prohibited in doing so by the Prophet Mohammed.

The concept of violence does not occur in the realm of methodology but in the realms of jihad, a word and a concept which has been a long standing thorn in the history of Western experience with Islam. Jihad which has many definitions indeed has a violent application. However, according to HT ideology this is confined to the realms of self-defence and the last resort in the ideological expansion of the state. In this sense apart from the styles used and the basis of motivation, one would find it difficult to distinguish this conception from the practice of ideological states in the international arena. Western neo-colonialism and the application of democracy by force in Iraq being a prime example. HT rejects jihad (physical struggle) as a means and method to bring societal and state transformation. However, it judges the response of violence in the form of Jihad as legitimate in the case of aggression against and occupation of Islamic territory such as Palestine, Afghanistan and Iraq. In these cases the response of resistance to Western occupation and policy is not novel to the Islamic movements, it has a broad measure of support amongst the Muslim masses.

The crunch issue here is that even despite the acceptance of the duty of individual jihad (fard ayn), HT maintains that the fundamental solution remains the resumption of Islam and the establishment of the Caliphate. For this reason it does not initiate jihadist activity as a movement. According to Suha Taji Farouki,

“Hizb ut-Tahrir has been calling with mounting intensity for the eradication of Israel by jihad since the early 1980s’, but this means calling for action by the Muslim states, the Muslim masses and the armies of Muslim countries, and not the party itself organizing the jihad – in fact, it calls on them to re- establish the caliphate so that jihad can be launched.” (‘Islamists and the threat of Jihad: Hizb al-Tahrir and al-Muhajiroun on Israel and the Jews’.In Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 36, No. 4, October 2000, pp. 21– 46)

It is the concept of Jihad upon which Ed Husain builds his accusation of terrorism against Hizb ut Tahrir. In an article entitled, “I know how these terrorists are inspired”, Husein claims that HT’s proclamations of jihad is what laid the groundwork for terrorism in the UK;

“The rhetoric of jihad introduced by Hizb ut-Tahrir in my days was the preamble to 7/7 and several other attempted attacks.” (The Telegraph, 2nd May 2007)
The problem is that the rhetoric he was referring to was indeed true, but it was under the aberrant leadership of Muhajiroun head Omar Bakri Mohammed. After removing Omar Bakri, HTB reverted initially to its original understanding of Jihad outlined above and subsequently distanced itself from any such rhetoric by removing all references to Jihad even on its website. This fact has been acknowledged by Husain. Moreover, HTB has gone out of its way to list and detail on its website, the opinions of prominent Western ambassadors and analysts familiar with HT in different parts of the world such as Craig Murray, former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who have confirmed the adherence of HT to its non-violent methodology despite the extreme levels of torture and repression against its members. Expressions of violence against the Israeli state and the Western forces in Iraq, Afghanistan etc are not restricted to HT but resound widely in the Islamic world as a mobilising concept against occupation only. Again as Nuh Keller’s points above clearly illustrate, jihad is an established concept in Sufi discourse even relating to the offence by an Islamic state and ideological supremacy. By attacking the concept Husein puts himself against the vast majority of recognised Islamic scholarship, yet again proving that Sufism is merely a mask.

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